Jaguar boy – Tiago Silveira
With this photo, Tiago Silveira became an Internet phenomenon.
Some people claimed that this photo was fake, but this image was completely real.
A boy poses for the photo while bathing in a lagoon next to, effectively, two jaguars. And one of them appears as if he is “hugging” him. The image, of course, went viral.
The photo is literally amazing. So much so that the popularity of the image also fueled doubts about its authenticity.
But it is real and illustrates a scene that occurs quite regularly.
Tiago Silveira, the boy that appears in the photo, lives and plays with jaguars since he is a baby in his native country, Brazil.
“I have some friends who tell me that the image is false, but many other people like it and want to meet the jaguars. It’s good to show some of my experience to those who have not been as lucky as I am,” the boy says. 12 years to BBC Brazil.
A childhood with Jaguars
The parents of Tiago, Leandro Silveira and Anah Jacomo are biologists who coordinate the Jaguar Institute of Brazil (IOP, for its acronym in Portuguese) in the state of Goiás, in the center of the South American country.
Its main objective is to study and preserve the largest cat in the Americas.
“My son was born in an environment with jaguars and he learned to deal with them since he was a baby, we obviously set limits , but he already knows how to behave, it’s very natural for him,” explains Silveira, who published the famous photo.
When Tiago was born, his parents were taking care of three jaguar puppies.
His trips included stops to bottle feed the four children, who were traveling with them in a van.
The child feels privileged to have the experience of growing up with big cats.
“It’s a relationship of love and respect, I always liked helping my parents take care of the animals.”
Silveira taught her son the same lessons he gives the general public with regard to jaguar encounters.
“These animals do not have humans as prey, they react to our actions, so it is important to respect them, their body language will tell you if they do not want you to approach them,” says the biologist.
“It is crucial to understand the limits, when the jaguar wants proximity, it will come in. They are not social animals, but they create lifelong links (with humans).”
Tiago’s mother says there was never an incident between the boy and the jaguars. He also emphasizes that he never left his son alone with them.
“We have always been very careful with jaguars and any other animal, our safety rules are very clear.”
The reserve occupies an area of about 50 hectares owned by Silveira and Jacomo, which does not allow visitors to enter, out of respect for the animals.
They created the IOP in 2002 and originally only wanted to study the jaguars, but then changed their minds with the request of the Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources to raise n orphaned puppies.
Currently, jaguar farming occupies half of its property.
According to Silveira, 95% of operations are financed with the couple’s own money and the rest comes from donations.
“For us it is an eternal search for income, because we never receive public financing,” he says.
Currently, the family cares for 14 jaguars, including four puppies and eight adults. And during the last decade, they treated 35 animals.
They are often sent to other institutes to help with the reproduction and preservation of the species.
The jaguar is one of the animals that make up the Red List of Endangered Species of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.
Although they are present in 21 countries, it is estimated that Brazil is home to almost half of its population , between 20,000 and 30,000 animals.
However, the specimens that arrive at the IOP are not returned to nature for fear of humans killing them, especially the farmers who defend their livestock.
Another reason is that some of these animals had frequent contact with humans.
“It is very difficult for these jaguars to lose this link with humans, if they are released, they could return to places with a human presence and end up dead,” explains Jacomo.
In the last year, Tiago separated from the jaguars because he moved to the state capital, Goiania, for his high school studies.
“It’s hard for me because I’ve lived with them since I was very small, and every time I visit my parents I feel that the jaguars also miss me, play with me in a different way ,” she says.
The photo that went viral was taken on November 15 of this year during one of his visits to his parents.
Judging by the wishes of the child, maybe we can see someday a grandson of Silveira posing with the felines.
“I want to study biology and follow in my parents’ footsteps, we are trying to save a species and I want to continue with this fight,” says Tiago.
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